News came today that Jake Muzzin is out for the Maple Leafs as they practiced ahead of their trip to New York to face the Rangers tomorrow.

This is how it happened:

This view shows his reaction best:

That play was in the second period of Saturday’s game in St. Louis. The Leafs had just lost Justin Holl to Covid Protocol, and they were playing a defence corps that started out as:

Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Timothy Liljegren
Rasmus Sandin - Travis Dermott

At the time of that goal, I said: Shouldn’t he be in the other protocol? The one we just don’t seem to do anymore?

And yes, as it turns out, he should have been taken off the ice immediately. He didn’t miss a shift.

In fact, as the game tightened up, his shifts got longer and more frequent. Travis Dermott played less, and Rasmus Sandin missed some chunks of time as well. Morgan Rielly played 27:40 in all situations, TJ Brodie had 21:22 and Muzzin was third with 19:46.

It’s not up to the player to say to the coach or trainer that he needs to leave the ice. It’s not up to the trainer or the coach either. None of them are disinterested enough in the game outcome to make that call. The NHL built its concussion protocol to acknowledge that fact. Where the concussion spotters went, no one seems to know. But Muzzin’s reaction is so classic a response to a head hit that causes a concussion, that it could be in the training film. His lack of any action on the goal against is classic response to head trauma as well.

In the NHL, that can only handle one health and safety issue at a time, you find out days later what casual TV viewers could see at the time.

The trouble with this thorny issue is that everyone is an interested party in players continuing to play. And the NHLPA isn’t going to get a mandate from the players to make it easier to take them out of games, so there’s no point in pointing fingers in their direction. They represent the interests of the players, and the players get to decide what those interests are. They actually, in the abstract, want to risk their long term health for game minutes now. I don’t see how you can play hockey and not have already resigned yourself to that reality.

Which is why the only people who are going to be able to force the NHL and the NHLPA to act against their own interests and put some teeth in the concussion rules is public opinion and their advertisers’ might. Or a judge.

I know it’s become popular to think that some rest might fix whatever is wrong with Muzzin this season, but a concussion never made anyone better. It’s not going to help.